Marine Corps: Ooh Rah and Happy Birthday

Service branch's commitment to fight the good fight has never wavered in 241 years

by Deirdre Reilly | 10 Nov 2016 at 6:43 AM

On Nov. 10, which marks the 241st anniversary of the Marine Corps’ founding, many will be donning their dress blues to celebrate the occasion.

“I was never fortunate enough to have had a set of dress blues,” noted one veteran on the Marines’ official Facebook page. “From the time that I was about seven, when I first saw a picture of a Marine in dress blues, I wanted to be a Marine so I could wear that awesome uniform. It never happened, but I wear it proudly on the inside. Semper Fi! It [his service] literally changed my life for the better.”

The Marine Corps has been a part of the U.S. Department of the Navy since June 30, 1834. Currently, the Marines work closely with naval forces and operate posts, both on land and aboard amphibious warfare ships, worldwide.

Today, many Marines are fighting the spread of ISIS. The Marine presence in Iraq may number up to 5,000, according to some estimates. "The Pentagon officially counts only 3,870 deployed to Iraq," notes Military.com, "but that total excludes hundreds of troops that fall into different categories, including the 200 Marines newly in the country on temporary assignment."

The Marines have fought in every American war of the 19th and 20th centuries, but their original role was to serve both as naval troops and as ships' guards. In June 1918, however, when the Marines under General James Harbord fought against German forces posted in a French hunting preserve known as Belleau Wood — their mission changed.

Ignoring calls to retreat — one Marine captain famously said, "Retreat? Hell, we just got here!" — the Marines held their ground against the German assault and later led a counterattack. Over 5,000 Marines were killed in the extended battle of Belleau Wood; the Marines established their enduring reputation as an elite fighting force.

Related: Marines Honor Sgt. Reckless, a Brave War Horse

Marine tradition holds that the Corps was actually formed over beers in a bar. In November 1775, Captains Samuel Nicholas and Robert Mullan supposedly organized the first Marine Corps muster at Tun Tavern, a popular pub in Philadelphia. The two officers are said to have lured recruits with mugs of beer and the promise of high seas adventure — their recruits later made up the first five companies that served aboard Continental Navy ships.

"While there's little substantive evidence to back up the tavern tale — some historians maintain that a pub called the Conestoga Wagon was the more likely recruitment site," notes History.com. "It remains a part of Marine lore to this day."

The Marine Corps' military band is world-renowned, and it will be both heard and seen at Donald Trump's inauguration. The Marine Corps has performed at the inauguration of every American president since Thomas Jefferson in 1801. Jefferson nicknamed the Marine Band, "The President's Own," and since then, its main purpose has been to provide music for the president at state dinners, parades, and other official functions.

"My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it ..."

Remember The "Marines' Hymn"? The line "To the shores of Tripoli," in the famous hymn refers to the first-ever battle fought by the United States on foreign soil — the Marines against a band of pirates.

In July 1798, the Marines were sent into battle against the Barbary pirates, North African corsairs who had for years raided American merchant ships and demanded costly ransoms. In 1805, Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon and a small contingent of Marines arrived in Egypt and assisted American naval agent William Eaton in assembling a mercenary army to overthrow the ruler of Tripoli. They were successful — and shipping was restored.

Every Marine is first and foremost a rifleman. The mantra "Every Marine a Rifleman" refers to the willingness and ability of each and every Marine to engage the enemy in direct combat. All Marine recruits since World War II have learned to recite the Rifleman's Creed, the beginning of which is: "This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life ..."

Among others, John Rollwagon of Boca Raton, Florida, wished the Marines a happy 241st birthday, posting on the Marine Corps Times website: "Our son is deployed with the 22 MEU right now. We are so proud of him and proud ourselves to be included as part of the Marine family. Semper Fi!"

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